I Had No Idea What I Was Doing

duckyOne minute I was sitting in the bus catching up on emails, next minute I was knee high in mud saving ducklings. We recently had the great privilege of getting to park our bus at some friends place who live off grid. (Check out Lucy’s blog here).  It was coming into evening and I was sitting in the bus with my laptop on my knee relaxing enjoying the environment catching up on emails when Rowan called me over. I did say, “hey if you guys need a hand with anything…” Next minute I am trying to negotiate my way over an electric fence with the kick of a mule to attempt landing on the grassy patch on the other side next to a muddy mozzie ridden creek. Yea well so much for a dignified landing on the grass bank as it begin to give way underneath me and my feet sinking into a warm gooey creek bottom and feeling my jandals embed there way deep down with no hope of returning with my feet as I lift my leg to attempt an escape.

Now trying to follow direction to help catch some ducklings I stand on the bank causally waving a stick around trying to encourage the ducklings into Bex’s hands while everyone else is diving head first full of commitment into the muddy abyss to ensure no loss of life for these wee fluffy balls of cuteness. I felt completely out of my element, yet the experience was one I won’t forget and the feeling of satisfaction knowing I had contributed in some way to seeing these wee things live another day.

This got me thinking about all the experiences we have had since being on the road. I realised how much each one has contributed to my new lease of life. How I laugh more often, and feel good about moving outside the world I knew, beyond the realms of my comfort zone. I relised how far I had removed myself from the feeling of achievement and sense of adventure. I was curious, are new experiences good for us in some way? Can they benefit our health and wellbeing? The answer is yes!

It has been shown that new experiences can be beneficial in combating anxiety and depression along with building self esteem. It can increase our sense of happiness and achievement. It builds our self confidence and enables us to take on even greater tasks and accomplish more in life.

I remember when I used to jump out of planes from 10,000ft in the clouds and the sense of being able to do anything I put my mind to. A few years later I traded that for a safe life and fear began to take it’s place. I was going to say undeserved place, but I had let it in by playing life safe and settling for a good life rather than an extraordinary life. Even the hiccups from experiences can produce positive results. I remember my eighth jump, a day I will never forget. I remember getting to the dropzone and packing my parachute and the jokes we were making about it not opening, I remember getting in the plane and thinking I needed to get out (it even had to stop for a while on the way to the runway to allow another plane to land), dismissing the thought we took off. I remember getting to 5,000 feet looking out the window and thinking, anything could happen out there you just don’t know. The door opened the wind rushed in and the plane lined up for the jump run, the engine buttoned off. It was my turn to climb out the door, combating the usual brain overload of natural survival I made my way out to the door with my legs hanging, my hands on the door frame then out I went. I reached for my rip cord counted to 5 then checked my chute, I distinctly remember looking at it and thinking yup all good. Then my brain engaged and I looked again and thought, that doesn’t look right. I had what they call a bag of washing, meaning my parachute was just a big knotted up ball of ripstop nylon and was not filling with air. Everything went into slow motion yet happening in a matter of seconds. I remember talking to the cut away handle and rip cord for my reserve chute saying, “I need to pull you and I don’t want to”. Pretty much over if that one doesn’t decide to open. I remember reaching for it, pulling and arching like I have never arched before, staring out to sea and feeling the adrenaline rush through my body as I look up with absolute relief to see this tiny blue square of nylon cloth spread wide above my head. That landing was the closest I have ever got to the dropzone target.

Some would say that was a bad experience and why even try skydiving, it sounds way too dangerous. Yet this is an experience I would never trade. First off how many people can say I jumped from the clouds, I got to fly relying on a piece of material to land safely on the ground after travelling at 200km an hour towards the earth. (My instructors called me a steam train due to my generous body mass allowing terminal velocity to arrive quickly for me). The thing is after this experience I found myself with a whole new level of confidence and began to apply myself to things I would never have tried before. It was an amazing stage in my life where I went out and tried so many new things.

You know in life we can have times our parachutes fail, something happens and it allows fear in or brings us to a place of playing it safe. We all have disappointments that can cripple us in a sense and keep us from ever pursuing the things we dream about. I had a choice after my parachute failing, I could hang it up and say well at least I gave it a go and walk away knowing I have been beaten, or I could hop back in that plane and try for a better outcome next time. Statistically it was very unlikely for that to happen again. I did do 5 more jumps that went amazing before heading off on my big OE.

For so many of us somewhere along the track we may have forgotten our sense of adventure and the feeling we used to get from trying new things. Maybe you had a parachute failure of some kind that has held you back from the life you imagined you would have. Maybe starting a business that failed and put you in debt, maybe you dreamed of being a musician but someone laughed at your ability to play an instrument. Whatever it may be, my advice would be pick it up again, have another go. Learn from the reasons it failed the first time or maybe the second or third. If you gave up walking the first time you fell as a toddler you would still be sitting on your butt at your parents house with a very narrow view and understanding of the world around you. But you didn’t, you tried again and again because that is what you were naturally designed to do until you walked. That hasn’t changed, you are still designed to try again until you are flying.

My encouragement to you? Try something new this week, take yourself outside your comfort zone and that thing you have been thinking about giving a go? give it a go! The view is so much better when you are flying!

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A Natural Life

office350It seems like a lifetime since having to wake up to an alarm clock every morning, standing in the shower trying to convince myself I was awake then jumping in the car and feeling myself tense up at the thought of sitting in one spot for the next 8 to 9 hours. Working a job I had to do rather than having the choice to do, well we all actually have choice but convince ourselves we don’t, waiting for 5 O’clock to jump in the car to battle the traffic home, eat dinner, watch a bit of TV and think about getting ready for bed to repeat the process tomorrow.

I was having issues with anxiety on a daily basis. My blood pressure was high, along with many other health issues. I was a grown man but I had to ask for permission to leave early or have a day off.

What I have typed above is considered a good responsible life. The problem is the good wasn’t so great.

It’s been over a year ago since that life. I think I have woken to an alarm clock twice since then. I now naturally wake at between 5:30am and 7:30am most days but get to lay in bed for a while and day dream a little while my body naturally wakes up. I then get to enjoy my breakfast without the rush and my mind begins to focus on the day ahead where I make my decisions as to what to do with it. Oh and I haven’t felt anxious in close to a year. My last visit to the Dr was meet with the comment, well whatever you are doing keep doing it, your blood pressure has come down.

A while back I began to realise something. I am living what I can only describe as a natural life. I can distinctly remember about 6 months ago having to set an alarm clock to be somewhere the next morning and it really highlighted the stress it put on my body after not having to wake to one for some time. The other thing that stood out is I didn’t seem to sleep so well knowing that the alarm was going to ring at some stage and my bed seemed so much more cosier than the alternative of having to get up to something that seemed pointless.

This made me think about everything else I used to do or experience during my previous life. I thought, surely this must be having some effect on my body. I would be forced into the day with a sudden burst of an alarm, I remember the feeling of my body and mind trying to pull itself into existence while standing in the shower. Then the tightening of my shoulders and stomach as I backed the car out of the driveway. None of this felt natural.

Once I had been through that morning ritual I was then met with artificial lighting, a computer screen and a very large lack of movement throughout the day as I was desk bound to accomplish the thing I was good at. I started to realise I was spending more of my woken life with people I didn’t really know apart from typical work companion conversations. My family? They certainly didn’t get the best out of me because the time I got to spend with them I was either tired or me needing space to unwind.

As I type this blog I am sitting in our bus looking out the window surrounded by native bush and fields of lush green grass. I have been walking around in bare feet in the long wet grass with a smile on my face feeling my body relax even more while a light shower of rain falls.

It feels as though this environment was created just for us to enjoy and relax in. There is something about being surrounded by the green and the natural light and even the rain and the fresh smell of wet grass and trees that just feels right.

Even though we are exploring New Zealand, the places that seem to have the most profound effect on me is the beaches and the bush areas away from the hustle and bustle of a concrete jungle, the busy traffic, the sirens, and people continually rushing from A to B feeling the need to justify having done something “beneficial” with their day. To live “the normal” life.

I am no longer convinced that is the normal life. My life feels more natural and normal than it ever has. My body responds better to this life. Even my understanding of work has changed drastically. I feel like I accomplish more in an hour and have more satisfaction of what I have done with my day than I ever did when living the 9 to 5. I feel like we have been duped into believing that’s normal and are missing the sense of waking each day with real purpose and a sense of creating your life rather than following the script.

I still work on computers but in my time and the environment of my choosing which has created a new lease of life and sense of creativity when I boot up my computer (not to mention the hourly rate is much more favorable working by contract). What we currently believe is productive is actually not and a 40 hour work week can be accomplished in 11 hours if managed differently. If you research the history if the 40 hour work week you will find it was introduced to encourage consumerism. As an exercise sometime write a list of everything you own, then work out how much time you use that object. I have helped move houses and I am continually astounded at the amount of times I have been asked, “oh just pop those boxes in storage”. You worked hard to earn the money to fill those boxes with stuff. Most of which you probably purchased because it made you feel happy for a moment.

Even writing this blog I feel at a total loss to put words to how I now see life each day. I could never type how I feel on the inside or explain to any degree how amazing this life is now it feels more natural.

I would never say everyone has to move into a bus. But I would say we are designed for a natural life, and this has been proven over and over with the evidence of how living a more natural life effects health and happiness.

So if you work in an office or in a busy environment I would strongly encourage you to take a wellness day or three and make your way out of the city and find a place of solitude surrounded by nature and stop and breathe and notice what happens when you do.

For me it was a matter of make change or die young, words of my doctor. I am hoping to research more about the effects of stress in the world we live in as one year away living a more natural life and I can’t even begin to describe the change it has made.

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So Your Kids Will Be Starting School Soon Yes?

One of the most common questions / comments we get is, “So where do you kids go to school or it’s good to have this wee holiday now before your kids are due to start school” – along with various  other comments.

I remember when Cindy and I first decided to make the change to our lives and head out on this adventure. One of the obvious discussions was schooling for the kids. Now so you understand I was an advocate as to why you should not home school your children. Like a lot of us I had preconceived ideas of what Home schooling was about and the “type of child” that was home schooled and yes I even used to banter on about the whole socialisation thing. They need to be with other kids to develop or they will be missing out. I truly believed that.

So I got to know some home schooling families and I spent time talking to their children I was almost embarrassed at my lack of knowledge and ability  when spending time with them. These were clever kids. They were well spoken and could quite confidently hold an interesting conversation and this wasn’t a one off experience.

So I began to entertain the idea of home schooling and getting comfortable with it when Cindy drops a bombshell! “I think we should UN-SCHOOL our children”. What?, are you mad? Next we will be dancing under the moonlight singing kombiah and drinking kombucha (which I must add Cindy makes a very good brew).

Now when we mention that this is the way we have chosen to educate our children you could imagine some of the concerned responses we get from those who care for our children apparently more than us lol.

So why have we chosen this for our children? Well now that we are more educated ourselves, I can say quite confidently, for many reasons.

As some of you may notice from reading my blogs that I am not the worlds best writer and my grammar has a lot to be questioned, but hey you get what I am saying so that is important. I use the spell checker every 5 minutes and have to google the meaning of certain words before using them. Yes I am a state schooled child!

Now I have been told that I don’t lack intelligence but  school just wasn’t quite the right fit for me. I am a very curious and creative type person but never found the ability to explore those areas while at school. I also remember losing a lot of confidence when told by a teacher that I didn’t know how to read properly and had a maths teacher say I was a mistake I was born because I was not understanding what he was teaching. Yes I know I am sure those are isolated cases yet they still affected my desire to not go to school. What I have come to realise is they just didn’t understand the way I learn. I have since gone on and self trained and managed to earn a 6 figure income and these days I am completely self taught for the skills I now have to feed my family. Mmmm does this mean we don’t stop learning after school?

Ok enough dribble about me. The reason I am now so convinced about the way we school our children is for the following reasons:

  • We are naturally designed to learn
  • Creativity allows our brain to develop
  • There are several different ways people learn
  • We can provide one on one time when our children have specific questions
  • Instead of breezing over a topic we have unlimited time to investigate it in much detail.
  • Self led learning allows our kids to find confidence and feel a sense of achievement
  • Our children will be self initiators rather than instruction lead but still have the ability to follow instruction (most likely questioning if they believe there may be a better way though)
  • They will be influenced by all ages and types of people rather than being peer led by someone who has the same understanding about life as them.
  • They will learn to engage with all walks of of life and have a broad understanding of different cultures and socio economics
  • They will think outside the square and develop the ability to be problem solvers

I could go on but you get the idea :)

So what is un-schooling?

Now I am certainly no expert on the matter as this is a whole new life for us but my understanding is the basic explanation is self led learning. You allow your child to decide what they are wanting to learn. Now to most that sounds like a scary irresponsible thing yet from what I have observed over the last year is not only is our 6 year old waking up in the morning and wanting to get his writing book out because it is considered play but his 4 year old daughter will naturally follow suit.

I think the day that really summed it up for me was the day our 6 year old got to drive a full sized digger by himself (ok he had to sit on my knee to reach the controls, but he drove it). I was sitting in a digger on a Monday afternoon thinking, most kids right now may be reading the well known book A Bigger Digger while Judah is actually driving one. He has read the book as well.

Un-schooling removes the pressure to be at a certain stage in learning and gives the child the ability to express their own desire to learn at there own comfort level without having their confidence a little crushed by a well meaning teacher. It also creates a better understanding of collaboration vs competition.

Please don’t mis-understand me, this is not a rampage on teachers and an archaic schooling system that is creating followers rather than innovators and dreamers. I think teachers become teachers because they have a true desire to have input into seeing a child develop and create a successful future. The problem is I feel that the system has let them down by not providing the right tools and overloading classrooms.

I am starting to realise that play has a huge part in the development of a child and if we can create a fun learning environment for our children they will retain more and gain an understanding that school may not be able to provide. It seems to be creating a desire in our children to want to learn.

As far as socialization, our children have several good friends who they get to spend time with, but those children are of varied age which again has multiple advantages.

First off the older children feel responsible for the younger children and learn to develop natural leadership skills, The younger children gain confidence as they are encouraged by the older children to try new things. They learn to communicate at more than one level of understanding and a lot of adults have even found that communicating with our children can surprise them at times with the ability to interact with more than an uhuh response depending on what time they got to bed the night before lol.

There is so much more I could say but one thing I will say is if you have gone down this road or thinking about it you will understand that anytime you move away from tradition there comes the sense of need to justify why you are doing what you do, but at the end of the day you don’t. They are your children and your responsibility and most parents will know that any good parent will only want the best for their child. So stick to your guns.

I have done much research on this form of education and have found it is the most natural way to learn with some astounding positive effects as unschooled children develop and begin to pursue their own future. I myself have taken and passed the mensa exam but school just wasn’t quite sure how to take the way I learn and develop it.

I have included a video below that will help explain in more detail what self directed education is: